Trailrunner7 writes "The amount of spam hitting users' inboxes fell off a cliff in late December, with many security experts attributing the decline to the sudden disappearance of the Rustock botnet and other networks from the spam business. But the level of spam has begun to gain back some of the ground it lost today as other spammers have taken up the slack. Researchers say that after the sudden drop-off in spam volumes, things stayed fairly quiet for a time, but now it seems that other spammers have picked up where Rustock and the other spamming operations left off. The volume of spam took a big jump upward in the last 24 hours, according to researchers at Websense. The volume of spam hasn't made it all the way back to the levels of the last few months of 2010, but it seems to be on the way."
wooferhound passes along this quote from the Orlando Sentinel: "Thanks to congressional inaction, NASA must continue to fund its defunct Ares I rocket program until March — a requirement that will cost the agency nearly $500 million at a time when NASA is struggling with the expensive task of replacing the space shuttle. About one-third of that money — $165 million — will go to Alliant Techsystems, or ATK, which has a $2 billion contract to build the solid-rocket first stage for the Ares I, the rocket that was supposed to fill the shuttle's role of transporting astronauts to the International Space Station. ... The odd scenario, in which NASA is throwing money at a canceled rocket program but can't fund a modernization program, is because of several twists in the legislative process that started a year ago and came to a head this month. At the root of the problem is a 70-word sentence inserted into the 2010 budget — by lawmakers seeking to protect Ares I jobs in their home states — that bars NASA from shutting down the program until Congress passed a new budget a year later. That should have happened before the Oct. 1 start of the federal fiscal year. But Congress never passed a 2011 budget and instead voted this month to extend the 2010 budget until March — so NASA still must abide by the 2010 language."
Voulnet writes with this excerpt from TorrentFreak: "This morning, visitors to the Torrent-Finder.com site are greeted with an ominous graphic which indicates that ICE has seized the site's domain. 'My domain has been seized without any previous complaint or notice from any court!' the exasperated owner of Torrent-Finder told TorrentFreak this morning. 'I firstly had DNS downtime. While I was contacting GoDaddy, I noticed the DNS had changed. GoDaddy had no idea what was going on and until now they do not understand the situation and they say it was totally from ICANN,' he explained. Aside from the fact that domains are being seized seemingly at will, there is a very serious problem with the action against Torrent-Finder. Not only does the site not host or even link to any torrents whatsoever, it actually only returns searches through embedded iframes which display other sites that are not under the control of the Torrent-Finder owner."
digitaldc writes "Pollution in Beijing was so bad Friday the US embassy, which has been independently monitoring air quality, ran out of conventional adjectives to describe it, at one point saying it was 'crazy bad.' The embassy later deleted the phrase, saying it was an 'incorrect' description and it would revise the language to use when the air quality index goes above 500, its highest point and a level considered hazardous for all people by US standards. The hazardous haze has forced schools to stop outdoor exercises, and health experts asked residents, especially those with respiratory problems, the elderly and children, to stay indoors."
suraj.sun sends this snippet from Reuters: "A girl can be sued over accusations she ran over an elderly woman with her training bicycle when she was 4 years old, a New York Supreme Court justice has ruled. The ruling by King's County Supreme Court Justice Paul Wooten stems from an incident in April 2009 when Juliet Breitman and Jacob Kohn, both aged four, struck an 87-year-old pedestrian, Claire Menagh, with their training bikes. Menagh underwent surgery for a fractured hip and died three months later. In a ruling made public late Thursday, the judge dismissed arguments by Breitman's lawyer that the case should be dismissed because of her young age. He ruled that she is old enough to be sued and the case can proceed."
I'm curious why we've not seen any releases of Russian actions in Chechnya, by these folks.
CheshireCatCO writes "Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, concerned about background checks now required of federal employees, sued NASA to suspend the checks back in 2007. The case has now worked its way up to the Supreme Court. At stake: whether all federal employees can be forced to undergo open-ended background checks whether or not the employee has exposure to classified or sensitive information. The background checks, which can include interviewing people from employees' pasts such as landlords and teachers, may seek, among other things, sexual histories."
itwbennett writes "Kosuke Tsuneoka, a Japanese freelance journalist held captive in Afghanistan since April 1, was released over the weekend. His freedom came a day after he sent two Twitter messages from a captor's phone. 'i am still allive [sic], but in jail,' read a message sent at 1:15 p.m. GMT on Friday. It was followed a few minutes later with a second message, also in English, that read, 'here is archi in kunduz. in the jail of commander lativ.' The message referred to the Dasht-e-Archi district of Kunduz where he was being held. On Tuesday, speaking in Tokyo, Tsuneoka revealed how he managed to convince his captors to give him access to the Internet. 'He asked me if I knew how to use it, so I had a look and explained it to him,' said Tsuneoka. 'I called the customer care number and activated the phone,' he said."
Hugh Pickens writes "Members of 4chan aren't known for doing things that are cute and heart-warming and when they decide to go after someone, it's typically to subject them to ridicule. But not this time. Someone at 4chan decided that the Internet should get together and wish 90-year-old WWII veteran William J. Lashua a happy birthday, and soon Lashua's local branch of the American Legion was deluged by birthday calls from people as far away as Sweden. The account someone set up for Mr. Lashua's birthday on Facebook had 3,956 'likes' and over 500 comments, most of which wished him a happy birthday and thanked him for his military service. It's not clear how 4chan originally came across a photo of Lashua, but a member of the site posted a snapshot of a flyer that was on the bulletin board at a store in Ashburnham, Massachusetts asking for guests to attend the nonagenarian's birthday on at the American Legion hall and the post took off. In contrast to their usual behavior, 4chan members 'were giving him nice phone calls and sending him nice notes' and discouraging those who wanted to do something stupid or mean. 'They were all being.. well, shucks, awful nice.'"
Newly released secret files show that Winston Churchill ordered a cover-up of an alleged encounter between a UFO and a RAF bomber because he feared public panic. From the article: "Mr Churchill is reported to have made a declaration to the effect of the following: 'This event should be immediately classified since it would create mass panic among the general population and destroy one's belief in the Church.'"
hasanabbas1987 writes "It's just been a few months since a 45-gigapixel panorama of Dubai claimed the title of world's largest digital photograph, but it's now already been well and truly ousted — the new king in town is this 70-gigapixel, 360-degree panorama of Budapest. As with other multi-gigapixel images, this one was no easy feat, and involved two 25-megapixel Sony A900 cameras fitted with 400mm Minolta lenses and 1.4X teleconverters, a robotic camera mount from 360world that got the shooting done over the course of two days, and two solid days of post-processing that resulted in a single 200GB file — not to mention a 15-meter-long printed copy of the photograph for good measure. Of course, what's most impressive is the photo itself [Note: requires Silverlight]."
relliker writes in with word of a paper up on the ArXiv by Seth Lloyd and co-workers, exploring the possibility that "postselection" effects in non-linear quantum mechanics might allow paradox-free time travel. "Lloyd's time machine gets around [the grandfather paradox] because of the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics: anything that this time machine allows can also happen with finite probability anyway... Another interesting feature of this machine is that it does not require any of the distortions of spacetime that traditional time machines rely on. In these, the fabric of spacetime has to be ruthlessly twisted in a way that allows the time travel to occur. ... Postselection can only occur if quantum mechanics is nonlinear, something that seems possible in theory but has never been observed in practice. All the evidence so far is that quantum mechanics is linear. In fact some theorists propose that the seemingly impossible things that postselection allows is a kind of proof that quantum mechanics must be linear."
thsoundman sends in a blog post from Rahul Sood, CTO of HP's gaming business, who claims there was once a project in development at Microsoft to let Xbox users compete against PC users playing the same game. According to Sood, the project was killed because the console players kept getting destroyed by their PC counterparts. He wrote, "Those of us who have been in the gaming business for over a decade know the real deal. You simply don't get the same level of detail or control as you do with a PC over a console. It's a real shame that Microsoft killed this — because had they kept it alive it might have actually increased the desire of game developers and gamers alike to continue developing and playing rich experiences on the PC, which would trickle down to the console as it has in the past."
ctdownunder passes along this excerpt from a NY Times article about a rig worker's testimony concerning the April 20 accident at the Deepwater Horizon well: "The emergency alarm on the Deepwater Horizon was not fully activated on the day the oil rig caught fire and exploded, triggering the massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a rig worker on Friday told a government panel investigating the accident. ... On Friday, Mr. Williams added several new details about the equipment on the vessel, testifying that another Transocean official turned a critical system for removing dangerous gas from the drilling shack to 'bypass mode.' When he questioned that decision, Mr. Williams said, he was reprimanded. ... Problems existed from the beginning of drilling the well, Mr. Williams said. For months, the computer system had been locking up, producing what the crew deemed the 'blue screen of death.' 'It would just turn blue,' he said. 'You’d have no data coming through.' Replacement hardware had been ordered but not yet installed by the time of the disaster, he said." The article doesn't mention whether it was specifically a Windows BSOD, or just an error screen that happened to be blue.
RobotRunAmok writes "Home to 700 authors and estates, from Philip Roth to John Updike, Jorge Luis Borges, and Saul Bellow, the Wylie Agency shocked the publishing world yesterday when it announced the launch of Odyssey Editions. The new initiative is selling ebook editions of modern classics, including Lolita, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Updike's Rabbit tetralogy, exclusively via Amazon.com's Kindle store, leaving conventional publishers out of the picture. The issue boils down to who holds digital rights in older titles published before the advent of ebooks, with publishers arguing that the ebook rights belong to them, and authors and agents responding that, if not specifically granted, the digital rights remain with the author. Publishers and authors are also at loggerheads over the royalty that should be paid for ebooks: authors believe they should be getting up to double the current standard rate of 25%, because ebooks are cheaper to produce than physical editions. (Amazon pays authors 70%.)"